Do you remember the corner store, how your mum could ring up and place a grocery order, and within the day, it would be delivered to your home by the happy, smiling owner, on his bicycle!
Old fashioned goodness or food giants, squashing out small businesses?
Mark Labrooy, co-owner, and chef at Three Blue Ducks in Bronte says his business faces an uncertain future if Woolworths wins approval to open a Metro store nearby.
Labrooy says the arrival of Woolworths would decimate the eastern suburbs shopping strip, threatening even his popular restaurant. “I worry that you’ve got a business that comes in with such massive buying power and destroys the livelihoods of a local community that live and work within an area,” Labrooy says.
Stephen Lightfoot, a doctor, and spokesman for the Save Bronte community group say the proposed Woolworths would worsen traffic, parking, and noise as well as harm local businesses. And this is supposed to be a food shopping service! Food giants such as Woolworths and Harris Farm, cause added parking, traffic problems and destroy local shopping strips by out-competing specialty stores.
Sometimes the little guys win, but usually, the supermarkets get their way!
If you offer good service, you will always win! Remember this.
Woolworths proposes in its development application to Waverley Council to consolidate three retail tenancies to house its Metro “neighborhood supermarket” at the controversial Bronte RSL site.
The store would be less than 500 square meters (about one-tenth the size of Woolworths Bondi Junction), feature a cafe with outdoor seating and operate from 7am to 10pm, seven days a week.
The “neighborhood supermarkets” concept was introduced into the planning system in 2018 to allow supermarkets up to 1000 square meters in small neighborhood centers if developments comply with local character and traffic impacts.
Similar stores have opened in Rozelle and Kirribilli.
Woolworths insists on the concerns of residents and small business owners are unfounded. “Our aim is to create food stores that are locally relevant, and we take great care to ensure each one meets the needs of the community,” says Justin Nolan, Woolworths Metro general manager.
A Waverley Council spokeswoman declined to comment. Residents of Turramurra on the upper north shore share similar concerns about the development of a Harris Farm store at the Eastern Road shopping precinct.
Discount supermarket Aldi previously tried unsuccessfully to develop a store in the area.
A review commissioned by Ku-ring-gai Council found the Harris Farm proposal would have a negative economic effect on some retailers, but “the expansion as a whole would be strongly positive since the centre would double its retail offer and its likely turnover”. James Kerridge, Harris Farm’s head of marketing and eCommerce, says the development was a “lifestyle precinct” that would also include an orchard, cafe and florist.
“Harris Farm is a fresh food market, not a supermarket,” he says.
Meanwhile, residents of Mosman have mobilized against a large Woolworths on Military Road, as reported in The Sun-Herald last week.
Steve Ogden, a lecturer at Deakin Business School, says community opposition to supermarkets stems from a distrust of big business, a desire to defend the small shops that give a local area its character, and widespread distrust of council planning decisions.
“You can drive 10 minutes in any direction, and hit a supermarket so people wonder why we need another big one that could kill off the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, who've been trying out to make a local living,” Ogden says.
Add to shortlist Residents of Newport on the northern beaches have so far blocked plans for a proposed Woolworths down the road from Coles and one suburb over from the huge Woolworths in Mona Vale.
Five years ago Woolworths also lost its bid to open a supermarket in Yattalunga on the Central Coast after locals opposed it. A decade ago a Coles development went ahead in Oatley West in Sydney's south with serious concessions that made it much less conspicuous.
More recently Woolworths won over the council in Double Bay in return for a public library.
A City of Sydney spokesperson says the council has worked to scale down supermarket plans in Erskineville, Harold Park and Surry Hills because of residents' concern.
But sometimes community opposition can backfire. In Mullumbimby in northern NSW, the family who owned the general store for generations was so fed up by council blocking expansion plans they ended up selling the business and site to Woolworths. In 2010 the supermarket giant opened a store one-third larger than that originally proposed by the general store owners. The opposition generally falls away once the supermarkets actually open, says Ogden.
“We might be talking about per capita, a relatively small number of objectors and critics, while there are lot of people who may not care or who may be passive or indifferent,” Ogden says. “These companies have done their research on demographics, on catchment areas, on socioeconomics, and if they've got a plan to put a store in, they’re pretty damn sure it's going to work.”
We say, go the small guys – who offer service and quality, over quantity!
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